Occupational Deaths Dropped in Washington State Last Year

Falls continue to be a leading cause of work-related deaths, accounting for 25 percent (15) of the fatal incidents last year, and one-third of the 2015 fatal falls were from ladders.

A new Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) report shows that 58 work-related deaths occurred in the Washington state during 2015, which is near the historic low for the state. The 58 fatalities were 18 fewer than the year before.

Only 2011 and 2013 had fewer work-related deaths reported (53 and 54, respectively). According to L&I, statewide workplace deaths in Washington have declined by about 3.5 percent a year since 2006, when 90 were recorded. "The decline in these numbers means more people avoided serious workplace incidents and were able to go home safe and healthy," said L&I Director Joel Sacks. "We're working closely with businesses and workers in our state to improve safety and this trend shows we're making progress. That's encouraging, but there's more to do."

One factor is that there were fewer fatalities in 2015 involving motor vehicles and machines. Falls continue to be a leading cause of work-related deaths, accounting for 25 percent (15) of the fatal incidents last year, which is five above the 10-year average and the highest number of fall-related deaths for any year since 2006. And one-third of the 2015 fatal falls were from ladders.

Six of the nine construction deaths in 2015 were fall-related: two were roofers, two were carpenters, one was a plumber, and one was a glass installer. In addition, farm workers, loggers, and other workers in the agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting sector accounted for 15 of the fatalities in 2015.

The data come from the 2015 Washington State Work-Related Fatalities Report. It's based on preliminary information analyzed by the Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) program, which is part of L&I's Safety and Health Assessment and Research for Prevention program -- Washington is one of seven states funded by the national FACE research program to identify and study fatal workplace injuries.

"L&I and businesses can use the information in this report to find even better ways to improve safety and health at work and prevent workplace fatalities," said SHARP Research Director Dr. David Bonauto. "Our hope is that the report will encourage an ongoing discussion of safety and health at every work site in our state."

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